Photograph from The Official Roald Dahl Website
On 13 September 1916 one of the most popular children’s authors in the world was born in Llandaff, Wales, United Kingdom.
Roald Dahl was born to Norwegian parents, Harald Dahl and Sophie Magdalene Hesselberg, during a period in history that is commonly known as World War 1 or the Great War. He had two older sisters and two younger sisters as well as a half brother and sister from his father’s previous marriage.
At the young age of four, Roald’s older sister, Astri, died, followed by his father a few months later. This left his mother alone with six children to raise, one of which was still in-utero.
Roald stated his schooling at the local Cathedral school for boys and went on to Repton, a famous British Public School near Derby. His interesting days at Repton are depicted in his autobiography, Boy: Tales of Childhood. One memorable event was when the pupils at Repton were invited to trial chocolate bars. This memory later partially inspired his children’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Dahl left school in 1934 and started working at Shell Oil’s offices in London. It was at this point in his life that he started writing spoofs and drawing sketches.
In 1938, he transferred to the company’s offices in Dar-es-Salaam, in Tanzania, East Africa. One year into his three-year contract, World War II broke out and Dahl went to Nairobi, Kenya to join the Royal Air Force. He was 23 years old at the time. His autobiography about this time of his life, Going Solo, states that thirteen of the sixteen men who trained to fly Tiger Moth planes in Nairobi together were killed over the next two years.
In 1940, Dahl was posted to Libya and in September he crashed into the Western Desert of North Africa. He sustained serious injuries and spend six months recovering in a hospital in Alexandria, Egypt. In early 1941, he rejoined his squadron in Athens. In April 1941 his was one of the 12 remaining Hurricane aeroplanes from his squadron that took part in the Battle of Athens. A further 5 of the Hurricanes were destroyed during this battle. Later that year, Dahl started to suffer terrible headaches as a result of his crash in Libya and he was invalided home to Great Britain.
In April 1942, at the age of 26, Dahl was posted to Washington D.C. to work for the British Embassy. It was there that he met British novelist, C.S. Forrester, who encouraged him to write his experiences in Libya. His story was later published anonymously in the Saturday Evening Post. This success was followed by other published stories in newspapers and magazines, including a series in Cosmopolitan.
In 1946, Dahl’s first short-story collection was published, followed by his dark book for adults called, Some Time Never, in 1948.
Roald Dahl married to an American actress, Patricia Neal, in 1953 and they had five children together.
Between 1955 and 1968, Dahl wrote a script for a Broadway play and scripts for the television Alfred Hitchcock Presents series as well as co-writing the screenplays for You Only Live Twice (James Bond) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. During this period he also published his children’s books James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as well as some adult novels. Fantastic Mr Fox was published in 1970 followed by Danny the Champion of the World, The Enormous Crocodile and My Uncle Oswald.
Sophie and the BFG from The BFG
Roald Dahl died on the 23rd November 1990 at the age of 74.
You can read my reviews of my favourite three Roald Dahl books here: https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/interestingliterature-my-favourite-roald-dahl-books/
The Official Roald Dahl Website